A Conservative Derbyshire councillor has sparked a row after saying a pregnant Labour candidate for next month’s general election will be “too busy changing nappies to be a voice for the people.”
Councillor Jon Wright, who represents the Hallam Fields ward on Erewash Borough Council made the comments on a Facebook profile picture posted by Catherine Atkinson, who is standing for the Erewash seat.
Mrs Atkinson, of Ilkeston, posted a message describing herself as a barrister with a two-year-old son and a husband who served as a soldier in Afghanistan. She is standing against the Conservatives’ Maggie Throup, the Lib Dems’ Martin Garnett, The Green Party’s Ralph Hierons and Independent Roy Dunn.
But Councillor Wright said Mrs Atkinson would not be able do her job “whilst on maternity leave”.
He wrote: “Funny she never mentioned she was heavily pregnant?
“I wondered how she would represent the people of Erewash whilst on maternity leave?
“And if it’s no problem why hasn’t she mentioned it?
“She mentioned her two-year-old son?
“How can a woman who is just about to give birth take on a role as MP?”
In a later post, he added: “As a voter an (sic) I not entitled to wonder how a woman just about to give birth can be an effective MP?
“Its (sic) my vote and surely something so big should be discussed.
“Brexit on the horizon and she might be too busy changing nappies to be a voice for the people of Erewash.
“Seems strange to me and I’m not saying she is egotistical and in it for the money and status (sarcasm).”
Mrs Atkinson, who is due to give birth in late July, slammed Cllr Wright’s comments, saying she would always stand up to “bullies.”
She said: “If it’s right that a Conservative councillor has said a mum with young children shouldn’t run for Parliament, I have to say I’m not surprised - that’s why they are called the ‘Nasty Party’.
“He should apologise. I require an apology not for me - I’m used to standing up to bullies - but on behalf of all young mothers out there, they shouldn’t be put off running for parliament.
“We need their voice - they are as much members of the community as anyone else.
“I am very lucky to have a supportive family and, like many dedicated MPs who are both mums and dads with young children, it’s not going to be a problem.
“What I think is much more of a problem is the fact that so many MPs have second jobs.
“It’s something I campaigned against when I stood last time and I will continue to do so.
“When people do have second jobs, they are not putting their constituents first.”
Cllr Wright defended his comments, saying: “I just think Catherine is due to give birth and that may coincide with, or be just after, the election, where she is going to have to be away from her role as an MP.
“I just thought the voting public should be aware of that. It’s been all blown out of proportion.
“I’ve been made out to be sexist - that’s just ridiculous.”
One Facebook user described the comments as “sexist, 70s-style” and another woman said she took “offence at elected officials acting in an overtly sexist manner, as it is offensive and unlawful.”
Another user asked: “And what has that got to do with politics? Are pregnant women all of a sudden incapable of doing anything?”
Alan Chewings, Labour candidate for Sawley, said: “It’s bad enough that we have Tory councillors who think and say this sexist nonsense, but what is even more disturbing is that the Tories allow this person to remain in the party. He should be expelled.
“He is an insult to all women with young children.”
A spokesman for the Conservative Party in Erewash said: “The recent comments made by Cllr Wright on social media are neither the views of the Conservative Party, or the Conservative Party candidate for Erewash, Maggie Throup.
“Both the Conservative Party and Parliament have taken great strides to encourage more women and mothers to stand for Parliament.
“Indeed Ms Atkinson already benefits from the use of Parliament’s creche, which she regularly uses through her husband’s employment as Director of the Parliamentary Research Service, a pooled resource used by Labour MPs.
“The creche was opened back in 2010 by Commons Speaker John Bercow, a Speaker drawn from the Conservative Benches, and sends a message to would-be MPs that they can represent their communities and be a parent too.”